Ryan Mason conceded it is "disappointing" Tottenham will only play in the new Europa Conference League next season. 

Spurs secured seventh place in the Premier League on Sunday with a 4-2 win over Leicester City, who agonisingly missed out on a top-four spot by one point. 

Jamie Vardy put the Foxes ahead from the penalty spot, but Harry Kane – in what could prove to be his final game for the club amid rumours he wants to leave – pulled Spurs level before the interval with a goal that secured this season's Golden Boot ahead of Liverpool's Mohamed Salah. 

Another Vardy spot-kick restored Leicester's lead, but there was late heartache for the hosts as a Kasper Schmeichel own goal and two strikes from Gareth Bale sealed victory for Spurs. 

The result meant Tottenham finished a point ahead of north London rivals Arsenal and will compete in the inaugural Europa Conference League – a competition designed to give clubs from countries that struggle to secure spots in the Champions League and Europa League a taste of European competition. 

While interim manager Mason acknowledged it is important for Tottenham to have European football, he said the Europa Conference League is not where they want to be.

"First of all, we wanted to be in the Champions League," he told a media conference. 

"I've said all along, it's disappointing where we are at this moment. It's very disappointing for the football club. 

"It's important we're in Europe; not the European competition we'd want to be in. Wednesday night was a massive dent for us [a 2-1 home defeat to Aston Villa], I said that after the game.

"The most important thing to do today was to come and win at a very, very difficult place. And I thought we came here and not only won, I thought we deservedly won. 

"I felt like we were the better team. I felt like we were in control, and like I said, we had some real moments of quality.

"So, it was important we finished today with a win, for many different reasons. Yes, it's not the competition we want to be in next year, but it's a European competition, and we will respect it, that's for sure."

A 23rd goal of the season sealed a third Golden Boot for Kane, the England captain becoming only the third player to win the award as many as three times, after Thierry Henry (four) and Alan Shearer (three). 

With 14 assists to his name, Kane also recorded his best-ever Premier League season for goal involvements (37), overtaking his 36 from 2016-17 – and became just the second player to lead the way for both goals and assists in the competition, after Andy Cole in 1993-94.

Mason – who played with Kane at Spurs before moving to Hull City in 2016 – was pleased his former team-mate topped the scoring charts again and described him as the Premier League's best player. 

"Harry Kane deservedly won the Golden Boot today," he added. "Like I said, all along I think he's been the best player in the Premier League. Most goals and most assists, it says it all.

"I feel very honoured to have played with him and we had some amazing experiences together, coming through the ranks, and I've been very fortunate in these past five weeks to have coached him, to have managed him and he turned up again today.

"He scored important goals in important moments and showed moments of brilliance. So, from an individual point of view I'm very pleased Harry has got another Golden Boot to add to the collection."

Gareth Bale has been given a rave review by Ryan Mason – but Tottenham's interim boss cannot say if the Wales winger will return to north London next season.

After losing his place at Real Madrid, Bale rejoined Tottenham last September on a season-long loan, but he is due to return to the Spanish capital once the Premier League campaign ends.

Asked whether Bale could stay with Spurs for 2021-22, Mason said: "I am not sure, I have not had those conversations.

"The club will have those conversations at the end of the season. After this game at the weekend he goes back to his parent club. He is a Real Madrid player.

"These conversations, these situations, I am not sure of. I just know hopefully he's going to help us at the weekend."

A report in Spanish newspaper AS on Friday claimed Bale is focused on spending next season with Madrid, before retiring afterwards when his lucrative contract expires.

There has been no indication from Bale that he intends to follow that path, and his playing prospects at Madrid could depend on who coaches the team next term, after the 31-year-old fell out of favour with Zinedine Zidane.

Mason has had no doubts about Bale's recent commitment to Tottenham, and he frowned on any suggestions the Wales international might be holding something back for Euro 2020.

"I completely disagree with that personally. I can only speak of my experience in this last five weeks with Gareth. He's scored four goals for this football club in that time. He's been excellent," Mason said, speaking ahead of Tottenham's season finale at Leicester City on Sunday.

Bale has not completed a full 90-minute game in the Premier League since embarking on his second spell at the club, but in 19 appearances, of which just 10 have been starts, he has scored nine goals in the competition, with only Harry Kane and Son Heung-min ahead of him at Spurs.

He has significantly exceeded his expected goals (xG) total of 4.8, and Kane (22 goals from xG of 16.76) and Son (17 from xG of 8.86) have done likewise.

Looking at Bale, and his performance in the 2-0 win against Wolves, Mason said:  "Last weekend I think was the most minutes he's played in the Premier League all season, pushing close to 90 minutes.

"I think if you were to look at Gareth in that moment he looked fit, he looked strong, he was brave, he added a different dimension for us and he has severe quality as well.

"In terms of him thinking about this summer, I don't believe so because he was out there the other night playing through some pain, playing through a problem he had, for me, for himself and for the football club.

"In terms of Gareth's commitment and Gareth's quality, I think his commitment has been fully there in this moment that I've been here and in terms of his quality, his quality is never going to leave him. I think you see that every time he's on the football pitch."

Ryan Mason understands why Harry Kane would want to play with Manchester City playmaker Kevin De Bruyne – hailing the Belgian as an "exceptional" talent.

Interim Tottenham boss Mason faced further questions on Friday about the future of striker Kane, who has dropped heavy hints he wants to leave Spurs at the end of the season.

Kane said in an interview with Gary Neville on The Overlap that De Bruyne's service to City's front players is "a striker's dream", and that has only fuelled speculation the England captain could be heading to the blue side of Manchester.

Mason, who counts Kane as a close friend, said he had not heard the interview.

"But I would love to play with Kevin De Bruyne as well," Mason said. "I think every footballer in the world, every footballer in the Premier League [would want to].

"He's an exceptional player and from what I know – I've spoke to him a few times – he's an exceptional person as well.

"If you ask any footballer in world football right now, if they'd like to play with Kevin De Bruyne, I think they'd say yes."

Kane could play for Tottenham for the last time on Sunday, when Mason's team visit Leicester City on the final day of the Premier League season.

Mason says that is where his focus must be, rather than on the future of Kane or any other member of his squad.

Kane also has a strong personal incentive to perform strongly, given he sits level with Liverpool's Mohamed Salah on 22 goals at the top of the league scoring charts.

"I've been out on the training pitch, preparing for a game that we need to win. Harry is going to be part of that," Mason said.

"I hope Harry scores a couple, I think his performances this season have warranted the Golden Boot.

"I think he's the best player in the Premier League. Hopefully from an individual point of view, he gets the Golden Boot as well and, in doing that, helps Tottenham get three points.

"That's the most important thing. I can't speak on transfer value. In football, things change so quickly. At the moment, Harry's a Tottenham player. He's going to be involved and hopefully he can win the Golden Boot."

Kane has scored seven goals across his career on the final matchday of Premier League seasons – only Andy Cole (nine), Les Ferdinand (nine) and Matt Le Tissier (eight) have scored more such goals in the competition.

He has also scored more Premier League goals against Leicester – a club he previously represented on loan – than he has past any other opponent, with his 14 goals in 11 games a striking record.

Seven of those goals have come in six games at the King Power Stadium, including a four-goal haul in May 2017. He followed that three days later with a hat-trick against Hull City in a breathtaking finish to a season that saw Kane score four Premier League hat-tricks.

Mason, who played with Kane at Tottenham, was forced to retire early from playing football due to a head injury, and the 29-year-old knows more than most the importance of snatching every great opportunity that arises in what can be a short career.

Kane's firm stance is that he wants to be in a team that wins trophies, and Tottenham have not unlocked the potential that looked to be there during much of Mauricio Pochettino's reign.

Post-career "regrets" are the sought-after striker's biggest fear, he told Neville.

"No player wants to end their career with regret, I don't think any human being likes having regrets," Mason said. "It's normal. If you speak to any player in the world, they'd probably say the same.

"My attention and every player's attention is on the weekend. At the moment, the only conversations I'm having are about the weekend, with not only Harry but also every other player in the squad."

Harry Kane's future was the topic on everyone's lips after Tottenham's loss to Aston Villa, although Ryan Mason was more concerned with a result that put a dent in Spurs' hopes of qualifying for Europe.

Star forward Kane has been linked with a move away and signed off this season at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with a 2-1 defeat, leaving Spurs vulnerable to dropping out of the Premier League's top seven with one game to go.

The 10,000 fans inside the ground will hope Kane's lap of the pitch after the full-time whistle did not constitute a final farewell, but for interim boss Mason it was not the time to comment on speculation.

"I don't think at the moment it's time to answer questions on Harry Kane," he told the BBC's Match of the Day.

"Right now we've just lost a game in the Premier League. I will speak about the game all day long but not about individuals."

Reflecting on a match in which Spurs led early on through Steven Bergwijn's stunning strike, Mason lamented errors and slack defending as Sergio Reguilon put through his own net and Ollie Watkins completed the turnaround before the break.

"We started the game brightly, unfortunate circumstances for their first goal and they didn't have to earn the second one either," he said.

"I didn't think there was much in the game, just those moments. When you make an unfortunate mistake as we did it gives them a good feeling. We tried to break them down but didn't take those crucial moments.

"It was just about trying to keep our discipline. We lost our shape at times. It was about trying to stay patient and calm. They had pace on the counter and were always a threat. It is a disappointing evening."

Spurs conclude their season at FA Cup winners Leicester City on Sunday.

Ryan Mason insists his only conversations with Tottenham star Harry Kane have related to Wednesday's Premier League match against Aston Villa.

Reports this week suggested Spurs were left reeling by England captain Kane expressing a desire to leave his boyhood club at the end of the season.

Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United have all been linked with a move for the prolific striker, who has 22 goals and 13 assists in 33 top-flight games this season.

Mason insists Kane is feeling good and is excited about the home match with Villa, though he could not provide clarity on his close friend's transfer decision.

Asked if Kane had indeed asked to leave, Mason said: "No, not that I'm aware of.

"All this speculation - I'm not sure. All of my conversations I've had with H have been about the game the other day [against Wolves] and also preparing for the game tomorrow. So no - I don't know."

 

Spurs are sixth in the table and Mason does not think there is any awkwardness regarding Kane, instead focusing on the return of supporters to the ground.

Interim Spurs boss Mason added: "I speak to Harry pretty much every day - before I got this job it was the same.

"I have asked him how he is feeling. He feels fine. Looking forward to tomorrow. He's going to be 100 per cent committed. I'm looking forward to seeing him play, in our beautiful stadium, in front of our fans. So we're excited.

"He's excited along with me about the game. Our only discussions have been about that, we are looking forward to it.

"No, I don't think anything is awkward. There's always speculation around the best players.

"There's been speculation in the last three or four weeks about the new manager coming in, all these question marks which is normal when you're at a big club.

"Our focus – and I've said it all along – is on the next game. My mind hasn't deviated from that, I'm sure Harry's hasn't.

"I'm sure in the rest of the group, every individual, their minds haven't deviated from that."

Mason did not agree with a question suggesting the Villa game could be a send-off for Kane.

He replied: "A send-off? No, we've got a game at the weekend as well [against Leicester City] so Harry is definitely going to be involved in them.

"Like I've said all along, I can't speak about next season, whether that's a manager or a player.

"What I do know is that the fans will get behind us. They're excited about the game, along with the players.

"I think [Kane] starts as he is our best striker and one of the best in the world.

"I've said all along, I am here for the next two games and that's my main focus. Hopefully we can win with Harry up front.

"No, there's no sadness [about the Kane situation]. I'm happy because we have our fans back in our stadium. I'm looking forward to it. The fans will make a big difference. The focus is: can we get three points tomorrow? We have to respect Villa."

Kane was impressive in the 2-0 weekend win over Wolves and will now set his sights on another team from the midlands.

"I think what we've seen with Harry this season, and all players, is that they're committed," Mason said. "The weekend was an exceptional performance – best he's been in the last five games. So I'm sure this will be no different.

"The fans will love seeing him play. He's been at the club since a young age. Fans are excited to be there."

Harry Kane would gladly sacrifice individual honours if it meant Tottenham ended the Premier League season on a high by winning their three remaining matches, according to caretaker boss Ryan Mason.

The England captain has failed to score in his last two league games and has been joined at the top of the scoring charts by Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who took his goals tally to 21 with a strike against Manchester United on Thursday.

Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes and Kane's Tottenham team-mate Son Heung-min are next on the list with 18 and 17 goals respectively, followed by Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin on 16.

Spurs face Wolves, Aston Villa and Leicester City in their final three league games and Mason insists the team will come first for Kane, who previously finished top scorer in the English top flight in 2015-16 and 2016-17.

"I know Harry, he's one of my best friends," Mason said at a pre-match news conference on Friday ahead of this weekend's home match with Wolves.

"It he can help us win games and also win the Golden Boot, then happy days. But he won't compromise the team for the individual awards."

Spurs were beaten 3-1 by Leeds United last time out in the Premier League and are now eight points adrift of the top four with a game in hand, while Liverpool and West Ham are four and two points better off respectively in the Europa League spots.

Mason's side will likely have to see out the season by achieving three wins in a row to qualify for UEFA's secondary competition, something that they have not achieved yet in the top flight this calendar year.

The likelihood is that if Spurs do take nine points from nine, Kane will have had a major say in that success.

"Our target is to get as many points as possible and see where we finish," Mason said. "It's very difficult in the Premier League to win three games in a row. Our focus for now has to be on Wolves this weekend. 

"At the end of next week we can see where we are. We want to be in European competition, that's what we expect."

Last week's defeat to Leeds was Tottenham's 11th loss of the season in the Premier League, matching their tally for the whole of 2019-20. Five of those have been defeats by two or more goals - their most in a season since 2014-15 (also five).

Mason, who has overseen Spurs' last four matches since the departure of Jose Mourinho, including the EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City, acknowledges the importance of responding with three points against Wolves on Sunday.

"Losing games hurts," he said. "To lose a cup final hurts massively, to lose a league game hurts massively. They are different emotions because the games were different.

"There were moments in the Leeds one that shaped how the game went against us. We want to win and we expect to win. Any game we lose is disappointing.

"The best therapy is being back on the training pitch. Hopefully at the weekend we'll be fully prepared."

Tottenham have lost three of their six home Premier League games against Wolves (50 per cent) - only against Nottingham Forest (60 per cent) have they lost a higher percentage in the competition.

That includes back-to-back away wins in this fixture for Wolves, who are 11 points worse off than their opponents in the table.

This latest meeting between the sides could be overshadowed by possible protests ahead of the game, with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust calling for the club's executive board to resign as the fallout from the collapsed Super League continues.

However, while Mason respects the supporters' right to protest, he hopes they will get behind their team on the field when fans are allowed back into grounds from next week.

"I think firstly, I trust our security, the players' safety is the most important thing," Mason said. "I respect the fans, their opinion matters, it really does. We want our fans to be aligned, all pulling in the same direction.

"Our chairman and our board have done incredible for this football club. I know our fans respect that. The most important thing is the connection with the fans, who are entitled to their opinion.

"To get them back into our stadium will be a massive bonus. It's going to be an incredible feeling. It's been such a long time coming. The noise, we know our fans get behind the team, we're looking forward to that.

"We've got a massive game on Sunday, but of course we're excited. The football world, society in general, is excited by some sort of normality."

Mason confirmed full-back Ben Davies is unlikely to play in any of Tottenham's remaining three games, but his side otherwise have no fresh injury concerns.

Tottenham interim boss Ryan Mason felt the officials on the field and elsewhere dealt his team a cruel hand in the 3-1 defeat to Leeds United.

Goals from Stuart Dallas, Patrick Bamford and Rodrigo gave Marcelo Bielsa's men the points in a pulsating contest at Elland Road – a defeat that all-but ends Spurs' hopes of sneaking into a top-four Premier League spot.

Son Heung-min equalised for the visitors during the first half and Harry Kane thought he had given Spurs the lead, only to be pulled back for offside.

Replays showed the call to be marginal in the extreme, but the video assistant referee delivered bad news for Tottenham, leaving Mason frustrated.

"My first look, my second look and my 10th look tells me it’s not an offside decision," Mason told Sky Sports.

"At 1-1, it's a big moment. In my opinion they got that one wrong. I can't believe it was given offside, to be honest.

"I don't think people understand the momentum shifts decisions like that can have in a game of football."

Despite Opta's expected goals projections from an open game landing 2.49-1.05 in Leeds' favour, Mason also bemoaned missed chances from his team.

"We had opportunities and weren't clinical enough at times," Mason said, Kane having struck the crossbar with a 72nd-minute free-kick when the score was 2-1.

"We had big opportunities and big openings and it wouldn't go in for us, then the last 10 minutes they get one on the counter."

Spurs have three matches remaining this season and trailed fourth-placed Chelsea by five points ahead of Thomas Tuchel's Champions League finalists facing Manchester City later on Saturday.

Gareth Bale is "performing at his best" and Ryan Mason is delighted to have the Real Madrid loan star on top form for Tottenham's run-in.

Spurs face Leeds United at Elland Road on Saturday with designs on narrowing the five-point gap to fourth-placed Chelsea in pursuit of Champions League football.

Consecutive Premier League wins over Southampton and Sheffield United have aided their cause, with Bale scoring four goals across those two games, including a hat-trick against the Blades.

That treble put Bale top of the pile in terms of his goals-per-minute ratio in the top flight, with his nine goals coming at an average of one every 81 minutes.

It marks an upturn in fortunes amid a loan spell in which the Welshman has often underwhelmed, but there is talk of Bale staying for next season if that is the wish of all parties.

Reflecting on the forward's performances on and off the pitch during his brief spell at the helm, interim boss Mason said: "I can only go off the back of the last two weeks, from what I've seen from Gareth, I experienced playing with him as well, a top professional with immense quality, he's produced on the football pitch as well, he's happy and I'm happy.

"We have to be performing at our best, at the moment he's performing at his best.

"I pick the team from training performances, certain individuals who will help that team within that match. For the game against Southampton, we needed Gareth, someone we could rely on to produce that moment.

"We have so many options at that high end of the pitch, there are difficult decisions to make. Gareth has proved in the last couple of weeks that he's got that quality in the final third."

Asked about Bale's future, Mason added: "Those questions and answers are not for me to say, Gareth and his parent club are having conversations.

"It's not right to focus on the next season, we have to focus on our next game, it's a massive match.

"When the season is done, those conversation will happen."

If Bale should add one more to his tally, it would represent the longest gap between 10-goal seasons in the competition's history (8), overtaking Paul Scholes and Nwankwo Kanu who each went seven campaigns between netting double figures.

Spurs have history on their side heading to Yorkshire, having won the last three in a row against Leeds in a six-game unbeaten run.

However, Leeds are seeking to remain unbeaten at home in the Premier League against each of Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Manchester United and Spurs in a season since West Ham in 2015-16, and only the third newly promoted team to do so, after Ipswich Town in 2000-01 and Birmingham City in 2009-10.

The tactical battle will be plotted by two managers with wildly varying levels of experience, as Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa is 35 years and 327 days older than Mason, representing the second biggest gap between two opposing coaches meeting in the competition, after Bobby Robson and Chris Coleman (37 years, 112 days).

Gareth Bale never had a chance to prove himself under former boss Jose Mourinho in his return to Tottenham, according to his agent Jonathan Barnett.

Bale has scored four times in the two games since Mourinho's sacking as Tottenham head coach, including a hat-trick against relegated Sheffield United last week.

The Wales international is on loan from LaLiga giants Real Madrid, with his future beyond 2020-21 uncertain.

Barnett believes his client may have been in fine form all along but was denied a chance to show it before interim coach Ryan Mason took the reins. 

"Given the opportunity, given the right way to play him, you may have found that he was always at his best," Barnett told Sky Sports News.

"He just didn't have the opportunity to prove it or the way to prove it."

Bale started only six league games under Mourinho, who was dismissed on April 19 before being appointed by Serie A side Roma this week.

"He had a tough ride and I don't think that should have been necessary," Barnett added. "He has been given that opportunity and you can see how he plays.

"I think with Gareth, like a lot of players, he has to enjoy his life and then you do well."

Bale – who scored his second Premier League hat-trick and first since December 2012 in the win over Sheffield United – has 14 goals across 30 appearances in all competitions this term. 

His three goals against Sheffield United came from six shots in total, five of those on target as he became the sixth Welshman to reach 50 Premier League goals.

The 31-year-old returned to Tottenham on a season-long loan from Madrid after seven years with the Spanish giants. 

Bale's loan expires in June and he will have one year remaining on his contract with Los Blancos. 

Tottenham interim head coach Ryan Mason reiterated any talks between the club and loanee Gareth Bale will not take place before the end of the season following his hat-trick performance.

Bale – on loan from LaLiga giants Real Madrid – improved his scoring run to eight goals in eight Premier League games with a treble in Sunday's 4-0 rout of relegated Sheffield United.

The Wales star forward has had an indifferent campaign, having been largely under-utilised when fit by former boss Jose Mourinho, who was sacked last month.

Bale has previously indicated he will return to Madrid next season where he is contracted until mid-2022 but performances like Sunday may sway Spurs to push harder to retain him.

"I think that is a conversation at the end of the season between Gareth, the club and his parent club, our main focus and priority should be the next game," Mason said.

"It sounds a cliche but it is true. I am glad he is happy, he should be because he has another match ball to add to the collection. It was an excellent performance as well.

"I think the decision at the moment and the priority is Gareth is ready to train and he is happy in training.

"We have got another big week of training because we have got a massive game next weekend and hopefully we can have a happy Gareth next weekend."

Bale scored the seventh hat-trick of his club career, three of which have come at Tottenham (four for Madrid). The Welshman's other trebles for Spurs came against Aston Villa in December 2012 in the Premier League, and in October 2010 against Inter in the Champions League.

He became the sixth Welshman to score 50 Premier League goals, and the first since Craig Bellamy reached this total back in December 2006.

All nine of Bale's Premier League goals this season have come at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – the most goals by a player with 100 per cent of them coming at a single venue in the competition in 2020-21.

Mason, who is unlikely to have any say in the final decision, added he felt Bale was "outstanding" and "world class" against the Blades.

Gareth Bale says the key to his improved form is down to playing more regularly since Ryan Mason replaced Jose Mourinho as Tottenham boss.

The Wales international scored his second Premier League hat-trick, and first since December 2012, in Tottenham's routine 4-0 win over Sheffield United on Sunday.

He was a second-half substitute in last week's EFL Cup final defeat to Manchester City, but the forward has started both league games under Mason, scoring four times in total.

That compares to five goals in 14 appearances under Mourinho in the Premier League this season, just six of those being starts.

And Bale, who is due to return to parent club Real Madrid at the end of the season for the final year of his contract, is glad to be enjoying his football again.

"You have to take your chances when they come so I'm feeling good," he told Sky Sports. 

"I just needed to play games and get a run of games and I'm doing that now. I'm happy and when I'm happy I play well.

"Winning always makes everyone happy and gives a winning mentality to the dressing room. It's not going to happen overnight but I feel we're taking a step in the right direction.

"It seems a while ago since the last hat-trick so it's nice to get it, but it is more important to get the three points."

Bale's three goals against Sheffield United came from six shots in total, five of those on target as he became the sixth Welshman to reach 50 Premier League goals.

Mason, who follows Mourinho, Mauricio Pochettino and Glenn Hoddle in winning his first two Premier League games as Spurs boss, is unsure if "world class" Bale will stay on.

"That's a conversation for the end of the season," the caretaker boss told BBC Sport. "The priority and main aim now is the next game at Leeds.

"When you score a hat-trick you'll get the headlines. Everyone who has watched football over the past 10 years knows what he can do. His finishing was outstanding."

Son Heung-min rounded off the scoring for Tottenham, having earlier had one ruled out for a marginal offside, as they moved to within five points of fourth-placed Chelsea.

Spurs have won back-to-back league games for the first time in two months and Mason was pleased with the response on the back of last week's cup final loss at Wembley.

"It was a disappointing game last week," he said. "We had a really good training week that allowed us to work with the team. The attitude and desire today was outstanding. 

"To couple it up with some of the quality, it was a really positive performance. The attitude, competitiveness, first balls, second ball, desire to fight for 90 minutes. 

"We stuck together and had some real moments of quality. It was a really pleasing performance and a positive night."

Despite the comfortable margin of his side's victory, Mason felt John Fleck was fortunate to avoid a red card for catching Giovani Lo Celso on the face with his studs early in the second half.

"I am so shocked that it wasn't a red card," he said. "I'm shocked the VAR team didn't at least tell the referee to have a look. I think it's a stonewall red card. 

"I don't think there's a clearer red card. You see the replay once and he's endangered an opponent. I cannot believe it wasn't given as a red card. It's avoidable."

Already-relegated Sheffield United have picked up just four points from a possible 51 away from home this season, losing 15 of their 17 such matches.

United have lost 27 of their 34 Premier League games this season - the most they have ever suffered in a single Football League campaign in their entire history - and caretaker boss Paul Heckingbottom is not looking for excuses. 

"Spurs were ruthless on the counter, but where we lost the ball on occasions and how we conceded the goals was poor," he told BBC Sport.

"That is not a performance that we want to see. It was so passive and I can't wait until the fans are back in because in a stadium like this it's absolutely dead. We tried to generate our own atmosphere in the second half but the game ran away from us."

The Tottenham manager's job would be "appealing for anyone", according to interim boss Ryan Mason, who insists Spurs are a "big club".

Mason has been filling in since the dismissal of Jose Mourinho earlier this month and oversaw Sunday's EFL Cup final loss to Manchester City.

In Mason's short time at the helm, two supposed candidates for the role have taken up other options, with Julian Naglesmann set to swap RB Leipzig for Bayern Munich and Erik ten Hag extending his Ajax deal.

That has left Leicester City manager Brendan Rodgers as the favourite to take the job and Mason believes it is an opportunity that any coach would be interested in.

"This is Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, there's always going to be interest," the 29-year-old said.

"We have the best stadium in the world, in my opinion, and also we have the best training complex in the world, in my opinion.

"It's a fantastic group of players, a fantastic fanbase as well, so of course it's going to be appealing for anyone.

"It's a great football club. I'm probably biased because I'm very passionate about it, but it's a big club as well."

While speculation continues to swirl around the club, with rumours also rife over Harry Kane's future, Mason wants to retain full focus on the remainder of a Premier League campaign that could yet yield a top-four finish.

Ahead of Sunday's visit of Sheffield United, Spurs sit five points behind fourth-placed Chelsea with five games remaining.

"I think there's going to be speculation because of the current situation we're in," Mason added. 

"I don't want to spend too much energy talking about other managers, other people, because at this moment in time I'm the one that's leading the team, I'm the one that's preparing the team, and the players and internally as a football club and everyone associated with us has to be pulling in the same direction for these next five games. 

"We're not thinking about the next manager, we're not thinking about who's coming in, because like I say I and the coaching team at the moment are the people preparing the group of players and that's the most important thing."

Harry Kane "loves" Tottenham and there is no suggestion he needs Champions League football in order to remain with the club, according to interim boss Ryan Mason.

Rumours over the club's star striker have been rife amid another disappointing season for Spurs, whose last hope of silverware vanished with Sunday's EFL Cup final loss to Manchester City.

Kane is the leading goalscorer in the Premier League this season with 21 from 30 games, and his 125-minutes-per-goal ratio better than he has achieved in the previous two similarly prolific top-flight campaigns.

The England captain was named Premier League player of the year at the London Football Awards on Tuesday but pointedly said trophies were more important than individual honours.

"I want to be winning the biggest prizes that there is to offer as a team and we are not quite doing that," he told the Evening Standard.

Spurs' chances of salvaging something noteworthy from this campaign rest on breaking into the top four and securing a seat at Europe's top table, with a five-point gap to fourth-placed Chelsea to overturn.

But Mason, whose side host relegated Sheffield United on Sunday, insists that will not be a decisive factor in Kane's decision-making process.

"I don't think so," he said when asked if Champions League qualification was a must as far as retaining Kane's services goes.

"Harry Kane loves this football club. In the past eight or nine years he has been one of the best strikers in the world. Everyone knows that and we know that and hopefully Harry knows that.

"Harry is a constant professional. There won't be any conversations between me and him about anything other than training and the match ahead."

Regarding the various clubs linked with Kane, including Premier League rivals Manchester City and United, Mason pointed out that such talk was nothing new.

"There's always speculation about the best players in the world," he said. "Harry Kane is one of, if not the best, number nine in the world. Talk has been there for a number of years. We don't need to manage that.

"Harry Kane is one of the most professional guys I've seen in my life. That's the most important thing, the players see a leader in training every day that sets the tone, sets the example and you can only appreciate and applaud that kind of mentality."

Kane has been involved in 34 goals in 30 Premier League games this season (21 goals, 13 assists), only registering more goal involvements in a single campaign in 2016-17.

He has been involved in nine goals in his last six league games (seven goals, two assists), netting three braces in that run. 

Overall, he has scored 38 per cent of his team's top-flight goals this season, with only Sheffield United's David McGoldrick (39 per cent) ahead of him in that regard.

Pep Guardiola hailed an "incredible performance" from Raheem Sterling, despite the forward's goal drought continuing in Manchester City's EFL Cup final triumph.

City won the EFL Cup for a fourth consecutive season and record-equalling eighth time overall, matching Liverpool's haul, with defender Aymeric Laporte the unlikely goal hero.

Sterling had five goal attempts – the most of any City player – but did not hit the target with any of those, and he has not scored for the club since netting in the 1-0 win against Arsenal in February.

However, the England winger was certainly lively, troubling Serge Aurier with his pace and trickery from early in the contest, when he teed up Phil Foden for a chance that went begging.

That was to become a theme, with City creating but missing a host of chances before Laporte met Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick and powered a header past Hugo Lloris in the 82nd minute.

In terms of xG – Opta's expected goals metric – City had a score of 3.63 while Tottenham's total was just 0.06, reflecting the stark difference between the sides.

Asked about Sterling, Guardiola said the former Liverpool player had been "amazing".

"He showed the opponent we came here to win the game in the first actions. He was incredibly aggressive," said the City boss. "Aurier is a fast defender and they are incredibly good at defending the shot and the blocks. Lloris made some incredible saves but he was brilliant."

Guardiola is sure Sterling will soon start scoring regularly, saying: "We have no doubts of that, the mentality is great, he trained well and he made an incredible performance. He deserves it, he created a lot of chances and made a couple of assists for Ilkay [Gundogan]. All the players were brilliant."

Having become the first manager to win the competition in four consecutive years, Guardiola said City's success was "more than well deserved". There was no denying that, with Tottenham a blunt force going forward despite Harry Kane being passed fit to start after his recent ankle scare.

Now, though, City have more targets in their sights, with the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against Paris Saint-Germain coming up on Wednesday. Guardiola admitted that "one eye is always on the Champions League".

And, as the Spaniard pointed out, they need just two more wins from five games to wrap up the Premier League title following Manchester United's 0-0 draw at Leeds United earlier on Sunday.

"Now we just rest and prepare for the semi-final, the first leg against PSG," Guardiola said. "And after we are two games away to try to win the most important title of the season.

"The Premier League is the nicest one and the one I am proud of the most. We are so close. Marcelo Bielsa's team made a good draw against United so we are 10 points clear and need two victories.

"Between the crazy schedule, between games against PSG, we're going to try to win the first one against Crystal Palace."

Guardiola also praised those members of his squad who played no part against Tottenham, including Eric Garcia, the 20-year-old defender who is expected to join Barcelona at the end of the season.

"I would say he is one of my favourite players," former Barcelona head coach Guardiola said. "I'd love to have 15 Eric Garcias, for the way he conducts himself, his behaviour.

"He helps the manager and the backroom staff all the time. When people say the people are unsatisfied if [they] dont play, I think of Eric.

"Most of the time he's not on the bench because he's going to move to Barcelona, I hope so, but I think of them. It's tough, but it is what it is."

Tottenham's Ryan Mason became the youngest manager to take charge of a side in an EFL Cup final at 29 years and 316 days, with the caretaker boss surpassing Gianluca Vialli, who was 33 when he guided Chelsea in the 1998 final.

It was not to be for Mason, who has taken over from the sacked Jose Mourinho and said it was "tough" to see the chance of a trophy slip by.

"The players believed and gave absolutely everything," Mason said. "I thought we rode our luck at times in the first half but defended well, blocked well, but we knew at times we'd have to ride our luck and they'd have long spells of possession.

"It was disappointing to concede from a set-play, but I can't fault the players. They've had a change of manager, a game in midweek, two or three days to prepare for this and work in a completely different way. I've so much pride in those players. They believed and gave everything."

Aymeric Laporte headed Manchester City to a 1-0 win over Tottenham in the EFL Cup final as Pep Guardiola's men landed their first trophy of what could be a treble-winning season.

City's attacking players rained attempts on the Tottenham goal in a one-sided Wembley clash, but it was defender Laporte who came up with the clinical finish in the 82nd minute, nodding Kevin De Bruyne's free-kick past Hugo Lloris.

The Spurs goalkeeper had been magnificent until then, but the quality of the delivery and the precision of Laporte's header gave the French goalkeeper little chance.

Top of the Premier League and chasing Champions League glory, a fourth consecutive triumph in the EFL Cup seems unlikely to be the pinnacle of City's achievements this term.

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